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Thread: U.S. researchers identify first human lung stem cell

  1. #1

    Default U.S. researchers identify first human lung stem cell

    U.S. researchers identify first human lung stem cell

    Agence France-Presse May 11, 2011 6:58 PM WASHINGTON - U.S. researchers said Wednesday they have identified for the first time human lung stem cells that are self-renewing and could offer important clues for treating chronic lung diseases.

    Previous studies have shown researchers were able to create lung cells using human embryonic stem cells, but this lung stem cell was isolated using surgical samples of adult human lung tissue.

    "This research describes, for the first time, a true human lung stem cell," said Piero Anversa, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and co-author of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    "The discovery of this stem cell has the potential to offer those who suffer from chronic lung diseases a totally novel treatment option by regenerating or repairing damaged areas of the lung."

    The finding qualifies as a true stem cell because it renews itself; can form different types of lung cells like bronchioles, alveoli and pulmonary vessel cells; and when injected into a mouse it could be isolated and removed and used to treat another mouse with the same results, the study said.

    "These are the critical first steps in developing clinical treatments for those with lung disease for which no therapies exist," said co-author Joseph Loscalzo, chair of the BWH department of medicine.

    "Further research is needed, but we are excited about the impact this discovery could have on our ability to regenerate or recreate new lung tissues to replace damaged areas of the lungs."

    Stem cell therapy on lung diseases has long been elusive because the lung is a highly complex organ with a variety of cell types that can renew at different rates, experts say.

    Lung disease is the third leading killer in the United States after heart disease and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.

  2. #2

    Default Discovery of Lung Stem Cells May Herald New Treatments

    More informative version.

    Discovery of Lung Stem Cells May Herald New Treatments

    But the research is preliminary, so human benefits won't come any time soon
    Posted: May 11, 2011

    By Amanda Gardner
    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to current scientific thinking, human lungs do harbor stem cells capable of forming different parts of the lung, including blood vessels, a new study says.

    The findings, reported May 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine, may open the door to eventual bioengineered lung tissue repair and replacement.

    "These cells are very smart. They know what to do," said study senior author Dr. Piero Anversa. "The clinical implications are significant."

    The findings could potentially offer a new avenue of treatment for patients suffering from respiratory conditions, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary hypertension, that currently have only limited treatment options.

    "Now that we have identified these cells and have the potential of growing them, we know it's not science fiction," said Dr. Andrew Pecora, vice president of cancer services and a stem cell expert with Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. "A single cell placed in the right environment allows for the development of adult cells that can live for 80 years. The implications are potentially limitless."

    Stem cells are those that first exist without organ-specific features but are capable of dividing and morphing into every other type of cell in the human body.

    Stem cells are scattered throughout the body, and a growing cadre of scientists is attempting to harness their innate abilities to regenerate and repair parts of the human body, such as the heart.

    The new findings challenge conventional knowledge about lung cells. According to an accompanying journal editorial, scientists had been holding on to the belief that no single cell in the lung could differentiate into multiple different types of cells, even though some cells do grow into specific cells, such as endothelial cells and the cells of the upper and lower airways.

    For this trial, researchers were able to identify stem cells from 21 samples of normal human lungs, then expand them in a test tube.

    The researchers coaxed the cells into developing into different types of lung cells, such as epithelial or vascular cells.

    They next injected undifferentiated cells into mice whose lungs had been damaged.

    "Over a period of about two weeks, we were able to regenerate a significant portion [of the lung] and essentially recreate various tissues," said Anversa, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "The human structure was perfectly integrated with the structure of the mouse lung," he noted.

    "The cells have the fundamental properties of stem cells," Anversa added. That means they could divide into new cells, form into many other types of cells and function when introduced into other environments.

    But there's still a lot of work to be done before these cells actually have any implications for humans, the editorial cautioned. Anversa will study the cells in larger animals before initiating a phase I clinical trial.

    "We're talking a few years from now," he said. "We're not talking about tomorrow morning."

    More information

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on stem cells.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    New Hampshire


    This is definitely the most promising news we've about lungs and stem cells to date. Now all we can do is stay as healthy as possible until this becomes available.
    Still Pioneering
    Had UC treatment April 5th, 2007
    Had autologous treatment March 19, 2010
    Had bone marrow and adipose stem cell treatment (autologous) June 16, 2010

  4. #4


    Don't hold your breath.
    First treatment in 2007. Pioneering ever since.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Manila Philippines

    Default sounds good

    this sounds like good news. what do u really think, barbara? whyd u say dont hold ur breath? i think that if its profit oriented then at least we have a good chance. i cant wait.

  6. #6


    This is why I said don't hold your breath. Statements such as these, to me, mean that any therapies for humans are at least 5-10 years or more away. (Unless you're a rodent and then you can take advantage of this new discovery right away.)

    "We're talking a few years from now," he said. "We're not talking about tomorrow morning."

    "But the research is preliminary, so human benefits won't come any time soon"
    First treatment in 2007. Pioneering ever since.


  7. #7

    Default Study finds lung stem cells, likely to generate debate

    By Carolyn Y. Johnson
    Globe Staff / May 12, 2011

    In a provocative new finding, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital report they have discovered human lung stem cells, which they say can give rise to the many different types of cells in the lung and ultimately may hold the potential to regenerate and repair damaged lung tissue in patients.

    The results, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, challenge the current understanding of how the lung develops and will probably generate significant debate and skepticism within the field. Many scientists did not expect that a single human lung stem cell would give rise to all the many cell types found in the lung.

    “Elements of the extensive experiments reported here are sure to be controversial, and some may even prove to be incorrect,’’ Dr. Harold Chapman — a professor in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of California, San Francisco — wrote in an editorial accompanying the paper. “But the essential finding . . . is convincing.’’

    Starting with human lungs from a tissue bank, the scientists identified lung stem cells by looking for particular markers. Then they did tests to demonstrate those cells had the essential qualities of stem cells: they could make copies of themselves and also give rise to many different types of cells in the lung. They inserted the human cells into injured mouse lungs and found that the cells replaced the injured tissue, generating multiple types of cells that grew into the intricate structure of lungs.

    In the lung, “there are several cells which have been claimed to possess the properties of stem cells, but don’t have the biological characteristics,’’ said Dr. Piero Anversa, a professor of medicine at the Brigham and coauthor of the study. “What we have found is . . . rather unexpected and seems to be, at least in the initial study, powerful.’’

    Dr. Joseph Loscalzo, chair of the Brigham department of medicine and also a coauthor of the study, said the team had not yet been able to determine whether the new tissue in the mouse lungs was functional.

    The next step, he said, was to try the approach in animals whose lungs have been injured in ways similar to the damage that occurs in human lung diseases.

    Scientists not involved in the work said the study was important but that it would be essential for the experiment to be repeated.

    The paper is “addressing an important problem; it’s daring in its conclusions,’’ said Dr. Kenneth Chien, a stem cell biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “At the same time, the technology being used has its own inherent limitations, which may make it difficult to draw firm conclusions and has led to difficulties in others easily replicating the work of the group.’’

    Anversa’s work has fired vigorous debate among stem cell scientists before. A paper from his lab in 2001 found that bone marrow stem cells could transdifferentiate, giving rise to cells that could repair the heart. That work has been controversial, with some scientists disputing the validity of the findings.

    The editorial noted that the find has tremendous potential but also that there are many unanswered questions.

    “If this is true, the identification of these stem cells promises to overcome one of the major hurdles in human lung generation,’’ Chapman wrote. “In spite of the many major uncertainties that presage translation of the current results into applications in the clinical arena, these new findings should energize the field.’’

    Several scientists said one way to follow up the study would be to use genetic markers to trace whether that particular stem cell gives rise to the other cells.

    For example, Carla Kim, an assistant professor at Children’s Hospital Boston who focuses on lung stem cells, said that after finding a stem cell in the mouse lung that her group thinks gives rise to epithelial cells that line the airways and air spaces, her group has been using genetic markers to unequivocally demonstrate that the stem cells were the source of the new cells.

    Doing that type of genetic tracing method could help answer some of the questions that will be generated by the new finding.

    The new paper will, scientists predicted, generate new interest in the field and spur further research.

    “I think it’s a remarkable paper in many ways; it opens up a whole field,’’ said Dr. Alan Fine, a professor and lung biologist at Boston University School of Medicine. “I think the field will be advanced once some of these studies can be done in mice and be reproduced.’’

    Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at
    First treatment in 2007. Pioneering ever since.


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